Bakewell, Robert (1768-1843) (DNB00)

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BAKEWELL, ROBERT (1768–1843), geologist, born in 1768, was not of the family of the preceding Robert Bakewell, to whom, however, he was known, and with whom he has sometimes by error been identified. He records that he was asked by the Countess of Oxford 'whether he was related to the Mr. Bakewell who invented sheep' (Introduction to Geology, 5th edition, pp. 402 and 403, note), and he replied that there was no connection between them. There is no evidence as to his parentage, though it is probable he was one of the Bakewells of Nottingham, quakers and wool-staplers of that city (Observations on Wool, appendix, p. 133). Bakewell, as a schoolboy, amused himself with the construction of telescopes (Phil. Mag. xlv. 299), and, being placed amongst wools in his early life, submitted them to the microscope. He afterwards speculated as to the effects of soil and food upon them, and published his 'Observations on Wool' in 1808, at Wakefield, Yorkshire: thenceforth he devoted himself to science. In 1810 he was in communication with Kirwan, and investigated the Cobalt Mine at Alderley Edge, Cheshire (see his Description, &c., Monthly Mag. for Feb. 1811). From 1811 onwards he lectured on geology all over the country, exhibiting sections of rock formation and a geological map, the first then of its kind (Introduction to Geology, 5th edition, Preface, p. xii). In 1812 he was engaged in a controversy with John Fareyand others (Phil. Mag. xl. 45, and xlii. 116 and 121). In the same year he discovered a fine scenite, in large blocks, whilst examining Charnwood Forest (Gent. Mag. vol. lxxxiii. part i. p. 81); and his mineralogical surveys having taken him into Ireland, and up Cader Idris, and into every English county except one, Hampshire (Travels in the Tarentaise, i. 270), he brought out his 'Introduction to Geology' in 1813, making its distinguishing feature the fact that he drew his illustrations from situations in our own island, accessible to his readers (Review in Loudon's Mag. of Nat. Hist. i. 353 et seq.). This work was a great success; it came from 'a person whose name is undecorated with any appendages' (Preface to 2nd edition, p. xi), and there was much novelty, at the time, about all geological investigation, the Geological Society (of which Bakewell never was admitted a member) having only been formed late in 1807. Bakewell was encouraged to establish himself at 13 Tavistock Street, Bedford Square, as geological instructor; and he continued his mineralogical surveys, in company with his pupils and alone, till he had again travelled 2,000 miles, when he brought out a second edition of his work in 1815. This was translated into German by Müller at Friburg, and it was followed by an 'Introduction to Mineralogy' in 1819. Meanwhile Bakewell was examining the coalfield at Bradford (Trans. Geol. Soc. ii. 282); he was inventing a safety furnace for preventing explosions in coal mines (Phil. Mag. 1. 211); and he was publishing his 'Observations on the Geology of Northumberland and Durham' (ib. xlv. 81 et seq.), and his 'Formation of Superficial Part of Globe' (ib. pp. 452-9), with some refutations of a charge against him of plagiarism (ib. pp. 219 and 297). Between 1820 and 1822 Bakewell was travelling in the Tarentaise, the Graian and Pennine Alps, in Switzerland, and Auvergne; and in 1823 published his 'Travels,' so described in the sub-title, in two volumes, with illustrations, some of which were by his wife. These 'Travels,' undertaken for geological study, yet full of humour and personal detail, caused a theological attack upon Bakewell by Dr. Pye Smith (Vindication of Citizens of Geneva from Statements, &c, 1825). Continuing his scientific investigations, Bakewell published his 'Salt' (Phil. Mag. lxiii. 86, reprinted in 'Silliman's American Journal,' x. 180) ; his 'Lava at Boulogne' (Phil. Mag. lxiv. 414); his 'Thermal Waters of the Alps' (ib. iii. 14, also reprinted in Silliman, xx. 219); his 'Mantell's Collection of Fossils' at Lewes (Mag. Nat. Hist. iii. 9) ; and a third edition of his 'Geology' in 1828, immediately reprinted in America. At that date Bakewell had settled at Hampstead, where his garden afforded him the opportunity of writing on the action of the 'Pollen of Plants' (Mag. Nat. Hist. ii. 1), and where he prepared the following scientific papers: 'Organic Life,' 1831 (Phil. Mag. ix. 33, appearing also in Froriep's 'Notizen,' xxx. col. 134); 'Gold Mines in United States,' 1832 (Mag. Nat. Hist. v. 434); and 'Fossil Elephants in Norfolk,' 1835 (ib. ix. 37). A fourth edition of the 'Geology' was issued in 1833, which provoked a criticism from Professor Sedgwick (Geol. Trans. iii. 472, 1835); it reached a fifth edition in 1838, and still has its readers and supporters of its theories. Bakewell died at Downshire Hill, Hampstead, on 15 Aug. 1843, aged 76 (Annual Register, 1843).

A list of Bakewell's fugitive productions is in the 'Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers,' 1867, p. 165, but it is incorrect. Three of the articles enumerated, all three on 'Niagara,' are by one of the geologist's sons, also a Robert Bakewell. The error is curious, because the geologist himself introduces this son to the scientific world in 1830, in the preface to the first of the three papers in question (Mag. Nat. Hist. iii. 117). Robert Bakewell the younger became a resident at New Haven, America, whence he dated his second and third papers, 1847 and 1857. Another of the geologist's sons, Frederick C. Bakewell, wrote 'Philosophical Conversations,' 1833, and 'Natural Evidences of a Future Life,' 1835, both of which passed through several editions.

[Poggendorff's Biographisch - litterarisches Handwörterbuch ; Donaldson's Agricultural Dictionary; and the authorities cited in the article.]

J. H.